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Amherst College Professor Carleen Basler resigns amid plagiarism charges

Carleen Basler, an assistant professor of American studies and sociology, resigned Sept. 17 after a tenure review committee found instances of plagiarism in her published work.

Basler could have appealed the committee’s findings, but chose to resign when confronted with the evidence, said Amherst College President Carolyn Arthur “Biddy” Martin.

“I think, like many others, I was saddened by it,” Martin said in an interview Friday.

“Academic freedom goes hand and hand with a commitment to academic integrity,” Martin said, adding that it is the college’s responsibility to uphold that commitment.

The plagiarism in Basler’s work was widespread and dated back to a dissertation as a doctoral student at Yale University, according to an article in the Amherst Student. Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler, chair of the American studies department, told the student newspaper that Basler used “large sections of prose from other scholars to provide the context, to provide the literature review or the historical background.”

“The big findings were hers and were in her own words,” Sanchez-Eppler continued, “but a lot of the background materials she used [were] other scholars’ work.”

Martin described Basler as a popular teacher on campus, saying she had served as a mentor to many students.

Basler arrived at Amherst in 2003. She was teaching two courses this semester, an introductory and upper-level seminar by the same name, Race and Racialization in the United States. Martin said the school has found teachers for both courses.

In speaking to students about the incident, Martin said the overwhelming sentiment has been one of disappointment.

“They combine a sense of what is right with a sense of sadness and disappointment,” she said. Martin praised the work of the tenure committee for spotting the plagiarism, saying the incident showed its members took their task seriously. “It seems to me that the peer review process worked,” Martin said.

In response to a message left Friday at her home by the Gazette, Basler provided a statement concerning what she called “this very difficult matter.”

In it, she said she took responsibility for her work.

“My reason for resigning is simple. In certain sections of my scholarly work, I unintentionally failed to cite and improperly cited previously published materials. In the realm of academic scholarship, such mistakes are very serious in nature,” she said. “Resigning from my position at Amherst College was a very difficult decision but one that I believe is in the best interest of my family, my students and the greater Amherst College community. “I could have gone through the College’s adjudication process, but as the mistakes are mine, I believe resignation was the most honorable and ethical course of action,” Basler said.

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